Today I decided I was going to wash my car. I know, I’m such a rebel!

As I washed the car, I looked around at the bay. The car wash had basically two pieces of marketing around. The first was the claim that warm water came out of the pressure washer. The second was that you got more time for your buck compared to the other car washes in town. One thought entered my head as I saw their attempts to woo customers-

How lame.

I can’t get too mad at the owner of the place. For the last 100 years, marketing has been exactly the same. You got an average product or service, you marketed the slight advantages you had over your¬†competitors, and sold it to average people. For the most part, it worked.

Now is completely different. There are 4 car washes in the town I’m from, serving a population base of around 10,000 people. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about any of them. One of them has bays big enough for big trucks. One of them has a¬†convenience store attached, another has a gas station and a laundromat attached. The fourth one, the one I was at today, is nothing but a car wash. It has more bays than the others, but that’s it.

I know the owner of the place. I went in to say hi to him while I was there. I asked him how business was. His answer was less than positive. He blamed it on a number of factors- the weather, his competitors, (one of which only opened in the last month) and the fact his cost of water went up.

I asked him what he was doing to attract new customers. He told me about the signs that emphasized the fact this car wash had warm water and that people got a slightly better value there compared to anywhere else. That was all he was doing to get business away from 3 competitors.

Obviously he can be doing more. Perhaps he didn’t know where to start. Perhaps he didn’t give a crap. Maybe he was just content to do okay at his business rather than well. The point remains that every minute a bay is empty is a loss of revenue.

I gave him two suggestions on how to drum up business.

The first was to offer a detailing service for people who want the inside of their car cleaned out. Everything from top to bottom should be cleaned. He can easily get $75 or $100 for an hour or two worth of work. He’s already admitted to me that running the place is as boring as watching paint dry. He has a tv in there that’s better than mine for goodness sakes! Of course, that’s not really that hard.

The second idea was to offer a service where he cleans little old ladies’ cars for them. They bring the car in, he sits them on a nice comfy seat in the office, grabs them a coffee and hands them the remote for the tv or a magazine to read. He goes out, spends 10 minutes giving the car a good scrub, and charges the customer $20. How many older people do you know who would go for this? Only a dozen per week would give a decent boost to the bottom line, considering about $15 of that would be pure profit.

Remember, there is often a market doing more for your customers than you may think they’d expect. There’s also a market for doing less than they expect and charging them so. These are important lessons to learn the next time you or your company is planning on introducing a new product.

Tell everyone, yo!